Category Archives: Letters from Armorica

Letters from Armorica- A Little Stir (3 May 36 AF)

First Letter

Ma chère Amelie,

Our trip to Mont-Havre has been more glorious than I could have expected. The journey itself was a treat: I knew riding in a floating wagon would be much more pleasant than in a conventional wagon with wheels, but I had not accounted for the lack of bumpiness over the course of an entire day. For once I do not feel battered and bruised as I sit down to my evening meal!

I do believe our road-wagons will change the geography of Armorica. The little towns of Honfleur and Petit-Monde are spaced about a day's walk apart on the road from Bois-de-Bas to Mont-Havre, a distance suitable enough for oxen as well; but we made quicker time than I have ever made before. The oxen didn't get so tired as quickly, and though we stopped briefly in Honfleur for water and necessaries we spent the night in Petit-Monde. It made for a very long day, so that we would much have preferred to stop midway between the two; but still, to arrive in Mont-Havre on the second day!

If only the wagon were self-motivating, I do believe we could easily have made it in one day. But Marc was correct: there is far too much traffic on the road for that to be safe in unskilled hands. We must have passed twenty or thirty other wagons today, some going our way, some coming the other way; and the road is narrow and far from straight. Had we been moving faster, I think there would have been some dangerous collisions! A fine thing it would be for our new company to go bankrupt before it was formed, through paying damages to other firms.

But the glorious part, chérie, is the look on the faces of the other travelers and those who dwell in the little towns as they suddenly realize that our wagon is different. We have been stopped for a talk by many of them, and I have told them to contact me, Armand Tuppenny, care of the shop in Bois-de-Bas. I expect you will already have heard from at least one or two by the time you receive this. I have been collecting the directions of those who are interested; do you the same, and we shall—but I am not to be telling you how to conduct business, chérie!

Today we all met: M. Suprenant, Marc, Jack, and I, with Luc in attendance; blessedly, Lord Doncaster did not feel the need to be present, though I expect that he might still drive a difficult bargain when it comes time to address selling wagons to the Crown. We had a fine dinner at M. Suprenant's home, and then had a long talk after the table had been cleared.

Most of the details were settled quickly, as things so often are among friends; and may I say that Marc and Leon Suprenant are well on the way to becoming friends? I could ask nothing better.

There will be one hundred shares. Leon will own the grand-blaireau's share, of course, as the money is his; I begin with fifteen, as the former who can make it possible; Jacques Pôquerie with ten as the builder, and Marc and Jack each have five, leaving Leon with sixty-five…at present. Part of our agreement (all properly written down, I assure you) is that Jacques and I shall be able to purchase shares from Leon as we begin to earn money, so that in time you and I shall own the largest share. For now, it is Leon who is taking the most risk.

Though I know you will be pleased I find I am rather embarrassed to tell you the name we settled upon for the new venture. I favored a simple name like Armorican Wagons, but the others insisted on "La Compagnie des Wagons Tuppenny", or as we would say in Cumbrian, Tuppenny Wagons. We wrangled over it for quite some time, but ultimately they wore me down. I tried to argue that it was a bad name, that the wagons would cost quite a bit more than tuppence, that our customers would find it confusing, and Jack laughed at me and told me I should have chosen my nom de guerre more carefully, and that it was a proper stick in the eye for my father.

It is true, I should like to see the look on his face, chérie. His son, grandmaster of the Former's Guild in Armorica, engaging in trade—and under such a name as Tuppenny! And when we are successful, as I am sure we shall be, I am not sure which will annoy him more: that I am bringing shame on the family by engaging in trade, or that I am not using his name, so that he can't take credit for our success.

It has been a long day, chérie, and there is much to do tomorrow; but I should be home late on Samedi. Kiss Anne-Marie and Margaret for me!

Your loving husband,

Armand

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Letters from Armorica– Avec Prudence (29 April 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Tomorrow at last I will set out to Mont-Havre to speak with M. Suprenant and Lord Doncaster…and I shall do so in style!

Jacques and I have spent this week building a fine road-wagon: a simple affair, based on a normal wagon body, but with just enough in the way of lifting blocks to carry it a foot or so off of the ground, and sled-like runners on which to rest for loading and unloading. The wagon has no motive block, and must be pulled by horses or other beasts of burden—or, rather, instead of a motive block it has what I call a braking block so that it will slow down on its own. The braking block was a late addition, developed after our wagon narrowly missed maiming two of Marc's best oxen. It is always active.

As a result, this wagon has only one control, to lift it into the air or lower it to the ground. Once lowered, it will not move; and once raised it may be pulled about like any other wagon. Almost like any other wagon: it never requires quite as much work to pull as a normal wagon would on smooth and level ground, regardless of the footing or slope.

It is a modest effort, far less than I could do: even Luc can do most of the necessary forming. But it is easily formed, and the unformed parts are easily built, and it should be no more difficult for a drover or farmer or carter to use than a normal wagon—while being much easier on the horses or oxen, and never breaking a wheel.

I had been all in favor of going straight to a full-fledged sky-wagon, or possibly what one might call a sky-skiff, but Marc and Jack between them talked me out of it. Jack's argument is that anything I make in this line will have military implications—what I want is a patent royal, and it will be much easier to get one if I offer my more advanced vehicles to the crown first. Marc's argument is more down to the earth, as one might say. He well remembers the day his sky-sled went to pieces around him, tumbling him to the ground. Our first customers are much less likely to kill themselves using a road wagon than they would with a sky-sled, sky-chair, or sky-wagon. "You are tres intelligent, Armand, and your work, it is digne de confiance. But still, let us move avec prudence." M. Suprenant, whom we consulted by arrow, agrees. "A man who falls from a wagon is bruised, while a man who falls from the sky, donc, he is killed. Let us remember that les idiots, they are always with us. Let us act so that they do not destroy what we are building."

All three are right, of course, and our unexpected need for a braking block (so that the wagon may also move avec prudence) is just an example of the wisdom of taking it slowly. And speaking of prudence, I must here record, since I neglected to do so above, that the braking block was Luc's notion!

And so tomorrow, Marc, Luc, and I will journey to Mont-Havre in our road-wagon, there (I hope) to acquire a patent royal and form a new company under the auspices of the crown. It shall not be a small endeavor: M. Suprenant for funding, Jacques Pôquerie for the design and normal building, myself for the forming, Marc and Jack for friendship and aid. And possibly Lord Doncaster, though I would prefer if he had no explicit role in the new company. I am glad to give him any credit, but I would prefer if our efforts were purely Armorican-owned. Always assuming that I can persuade Jack to make his life here, as I increasingly hope I can. But Lord Doncaster, as the Crown's representative here, must always be an outsider.

There will be pressure to locate our company in Mont-Havre, but we intend to place it in Bois-de-Bas. It is my home; the necessary materials are here in abundance; and it is past time for Armorica to have another commercial center.

And now, to bed for a good night's rest.

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Letters from Armorica- Regions of Safety (22 April 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Jack,

Thank you for the material you sent me on—

Oh my, has it been that long? Yes, looking at my journal I see it's been over a week since I received it. I beg your forgiveness—your sheaf of notes was exactly what I needed to make progress, and I have only just now come up for air.

What I have done, Jack—mostly, anyway, I suspect I will be filling in the corners for some time—what I have done, I say, is work out the mathematical laws by which greedy and generous formed objects interact. As a result, I am now able to design sky-chairs and other similar vessels that will contain both—and indeed a plethora, nay, a superfluity! of other things—and with perfect safety—

I am not very coherent today, I find.

I shall take a deep breath, and try again.

It has been a very long week, Jack. It began when I received your letter, and since then every waking moment has been consumed by my work. I have been elated and snappish by turns, and I have hardly left my workshop even to sleep. On the second day my Amelie took to leaving me plates of food on the counter, and that evening, smiling serenely, she left me a pile of blankets. "You will come out when it is done, n'est-ce pas? " And I believe she must have spoken to Jacques-le-Souris, for it just now occurs to me that my usual crowd of old men, my village elders, have been absent for most of that time.

Or perhaps they simply peeked in the window and were driven off by my unkempt hair and wild manner.

No matter. It is done, Jack. I have proven mathematically that it is possible to build self-powered flying vessels that will not self-destruct as my early efforts did. Yes, certainly, we knew that was possible—the sky-freighters and warships that ply the Abyss prove that. But I now know the relationships between the degree of hardening and the degrees of lift and motive power that are safe; and more than that, I know the range of designs that are workable, that fall within what I call in my head the region of safety. It is a much broader region than the shipbuilders of the Lands of the Abyss seem to think.

This will change the craft of forming forever, Jack. And it will provide a fortune for Amelie and my daughters, and for my friends here in Bois-de-Bas.

And now, Jack, I need one more thing of you. I shall be coming to Mont-Havre in a day or two, and I need you set up a meeting with M. Suprenant, Lord Doncaster—my thanks to him!—and myself. And you, of course. I will need funds, experience in trade, and the good will of the government to bring this off—and quite aside from that, I remember my friends.

And now, I believe, I must go sleep in a real bed. Amelie will see that this gets sent to you, at least, if she is not completely out of patience with me.

I have done it, Jack. I am happier than I can well express.

Armand

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Letters from Armorica- A Game of Darts (8 April 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Jack,

I hope all is well with you, and that you've not broken too many hearts in Mont-Havre; there are several tender ones here in Bois-de-Bas, I do believe, who would rejoice in making your acquaintance once again.

Your Sergeant Allen has proven to be quite the treasure. His inn, Le Cochon's Head, has proven just the social center I hoped it would be, and with him behind the bar there's been little in the way of drunken trouble for me to take official notice of. He's a solid man, if stout looking; and the same describes the truncheon he keeps near to hand, not that he's had to make much use of it. He has the knack, Jack, and the townsfolk like him.

I shall tell you a story. Some while ago, Claude Fourneau got into a brawl with Guy Sanfois over a game of darts. Fourneau is one of our newer men, a fellow from Fôret-Rose who came here during the war; Sanfois is one of Marc Frontenac's hired men, and a third-generation resident. It was the usual sort of thing: Claude said Guy had shot with his foot over the line, Guy denied it, both had been drinking heavily, names were called, fists were thrown (and mostly missed), and it was about to become general when Allen stepped in and told them that if they were going to have a fight they were going to "do it proper," at least if they ever wanted to drink in his inn again. He'd never seen such poor excuse for fisticuffs in his life, and he wasn't going to stand for it.

I assure you, Jack, every jaw dropped.

Allen escorted them both outside, followed by all of the other drinkers, and sketched out a circle in the road with his foot. He pushed them both inside, and proceeded to give them both instruction in how to properly throw and receive a punch, how to block, and so forth. I'm not being coy, Jack; I don't mean he beat them up. I mean that he let them beat each other up under his tutelage, and damme if they both didn't improve quite a bit despite being half-seas-over.

And then they both collapsed, more or less simultaneously, and their friends took them home at Allen's direction, and everyone else went inside and had a round of Allen's excellent beer. Claude and Guy were back the next day, battered but happy, shook hands with good will, and last I heard were still badgering Allen for more lessons.

Bois-de-Bas remains a frontier town, as you can see; and I may say that the local ladies were quite impressed. At least one of your erstwhile admirers has set her cap at the good sergeant, and as I expect to see a wedding before Deuxième Débarquement in June you will have to move quickly if you wish to regain your place in her heart!

I joke, of course, but in all seriousness: when might we see you here again? I am eager to come to Mont-Havre, weather permitting, but I cannot bring Amelie and the girls, nor have you yet laid eyes on your newest cousin.

In the meantime I have a favor to ask of you; or, possibly, for you to ask of His Lordship. I am close to making a breakthrough, Jack, but I need numbers. More specifically, I need the plans and details of a small sky-ship: a sloop, or something of the sort. A sloop-of-war would be preferable, but I will take whatever I can get.

As you know, I have had occasion to examine two such sloops, both Provençese in origin, so I have a good idea of their draughts and dimensions; what I do not know is their tonnage: how much they weigh, how much material goes into them. If I can get some numbers, Jack, I am poised to make some major advances in shipbuilding—a good thing for me and mine, for Armorican industry, and potentially for Cumbria as well.

If it is possible to get what I need without involving His Lordship I would prefer it—for I have become a shopkeeper, Jack, no doubt to my father's dismay, and wish to be able to drive the hardest bargains I can—but I would never wish you to go behind Lord Doncaster's back. I owe him too much for that.

Armand

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Letters from Armorica- The Sleeping Sloops (4 April 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

How I wish I had another master former to discuss my research with—one trained by a different master, and preferably from a different guild house altogether. I have learned much from Master Grenadine’s books and more than I had realized from my father; but I cannot talk matters over with a book, and I have never at any time been able to discuss anything with my father. Luc is a great help and comfort to me, a lad of surprising insights, but of course he knows less of the history and development of our craft than I do.

Because I have not the aid of another master, I must take unusual risks. And this week I build for myself a new sky-chair, along different lines than before. For my first practical sky-chairs I hardened as much of the vehicle as I could, all but the lifting blocks; in later cases I hardened almost nothing, having not the time for it. But I have come to believe that both methods are prone to catastrophe: if everything is hardened, the hardened elements bear so little tension they provide no significanteffort to the greedy lifting blocks; and if nothing is, the lifting blocks will draw effort willy-nilly from whatever is around, to the detriment of any generous formed objects in the vicinity.

The new chair has been designed so that only certain load-bearing elements are hardened—so that whether the chair is flying or on the ground, it is “hanging”, as it were, from the hardened elements, and so putting tension on them. At all times, then, effort is produced; and if my theories and calculations are correct, this effort will sustain the lifting elements.

I am morally certain that this tactic works in principle; but my mathematics are as yet insufficient to prove that my new chair will be stable in the long-term. And yet, the sky-ships that ply the Void between the lands use lifting and motive blocks, as I well recall, even though they do not rely on the motive blocks for any great degree of propulsion, but on their sails. The motive blocks are only for maneuvering slowly in the harbor.

It is a proven design, doubtless achieved by trial and error over many years a very long time ago; and doubtless far more conservative than it needs to be. But it would provide a useful data point to me, should I be able to examine such a ship, to see just where the hardened elements of the ship are, and how they are held in tension, and how strong the lifting and motive elements are.

And of course, we left two sky-sloops suspended over the river on L’Isle de Grand-Blaireau, ready for me to investigate, if only I could reach them. Hence the new sky-chair, and hence the adventure.

I took Jacques Pôquerie with me, for his strength (and for his company, truth be told), and we made the journey north and up over the lake to the sky-island. (And how, now I come to think of it, does the sky-island remain floating in the sky? Is it by the same principle as my sky-chair, or something wholly other?)

The camp was much as we had left it, with the two sloops hanging solidly in place just as we’d left them. Some distance away I found the terrifying remains of the sky-chairs, sleds, and wagons we’d cached on the island. It was worse than I had feared: every hardened element had decayed to powder, and the place was a shambles.

Some of the sky-wagons, the ones I had had no time to “fortify”, looked to be in good working order, and would no doubt be quite safe to use…but would work irretrievable harm on any hardened objects placed close by.

Leaving the sloops to the side for the time being, Jacques and I busied ourselves by retrieving the lifting elements from amid the decay and placing them to one side. They are all in good shape and might conceivably be reused, though I dare not bring them all back to Bois-de-Bas en masse. The remaining wagons I may be able to do more work on, one of these days, judiciously hardening this and that to render them “stable,” so that they may be used without harm to the formed objects around them.

And then I spent a happy few hours exploring the sloops, identifying the various formed elements, and taking all manner of measurements. My memories were correct; the sloop as a whole hangs from a hardened super-structure incorporated into the railing and gunwhales around the perimeter of the deck, and is supported by its hardened keel; and the hardened elements are themselves upheld by the lifting elements, which are quite good-sized and always in operation. The motive blocks are quite small and localized near the stern of the sloop, just forward of the rudder.

I found no evidence of decay in any of the hardened elements, which are undeniably under great tension. Alas, I have no way of measuring it: I have no means of estimating the weight of the elements that depend upon them. The information must be available somewhere, though possibly not in Mont-Havre. But if I can acquire it, and if I can finish my trials and my mathematical excursions, I have every reason to think that not only can I build sky-chairs and wagons that are safe, I will also be able to design sky-ships that are lighter than those currently in use—and much less dependent on their sails.

It is time, I think, to make a trip to see M. Fournier in Mont-Havre, and Cousin Jack as well.

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Letters from Armorica- The Trial (20 March 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

O! It has been a week. Bertrand's father, M. Laveau, has not been seen in some days; and Bertrand himself is no longer staying with the Poquêries, but has returned to his home, to live once again with his mother and his younger siblings. It was the central topic of discussion at the hot springs this afternoon.

I felt myself to be on trial, and wondered if I should absent myself; but Marc Frontenac told me I had done nothing wrong and that I needed to be in my place. And so I sat where Onc' Herbert always used to sit, feeling more like a fraud than usual, with Marc Frontenac in his usual place on my right and with Jacques Poquêrie on my left; and Jacques sat Bertrand to his left, a most exalted place for such a young fellow. There was considerable murmuring as we took our places, for of course everyone in town had some notion, clear or otherwise, of what had happened. Usually there is a great deal of chit chat as the men enter the springs and settle down in the hot water, but today everyone was silent.

Rather than speaking myself, I took Marc's advice: when all were seated I gestured to Jacques. Marc and I are still newcomers to Bois-de-Bas, though highly regarded; Jacques was born here.

Jacques began by telling them what they already knew: that Bertrand had been sent to L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau with the other lads; that he had excelled there, becoming captain of the lookouts and contributing to the defense of the island by his leadership and vigilance; that his father had taken against me through no fault of my own; and had driven him out into the snow. He explained how we had found him, starving and nearly frozen, with Luc's help (without going into detail about the message arrows), and brought him home.

This was followed by questions. Jean Thibodeau, a close neighbor of the Laveaus, asked Bertrand to confirm Jacques' story, and to give additional details, which he did. It was hard for him. He sat bolt upright, clenching his fists, but he answered as calmly and firmly as a young fellow his age might, though with an edge to his voice. No one alluded directly to M. Laveau's more vile claims and insinuations, for which I was grateful. M. Thibodeau then asked many searching questions about the living situation on L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau, and about the time he spent with me when Bertrand joined me in Mont-Havre and at the Farm.

Then M. Thibodeau, who seemed to have tacitly appointed himself Bertrand's advocate, asked me why I'd summoned Bertrand to come to me in Mont-Havre; it was the first time I'd been asked to speak.

"Because I knew him to be reliable," I said. "He did excellent service during the war, as you have all heard. I needed someone I could trust to run errands for me, and to help me keep things running."

"And why didn't you summon Luc, your apprentice?"

I laughed. "It is a long way from Bois-de-Bas to Mont-Havre. Luc is small for his age; I knew that Bertrand could handle any trouble that arose along the way, and would arrive safely."

There were a few more questions for me, but no surprises, and with a start I realized that I was not the one on trial; M. Laveau was, though in absentia. More, I had the sense that Jean Thibodeau had no friendly feelings for M. Laveau. Familiarity breeds contempt, they say, and sometimes it is deserved.

Then M. Thibodeau turned to Jacques, and asked him what he knew of M. Laveau's whereabouts. Jacques was painfully blunt.

"Once we had Bertrand safe, I went to speak to M. Laveau. I told him he was un cochon, and no good father, and that he was no longer welcome in Bois-de-Bas. The next day he was gone."

"Do you know where he went?"

"Non."

"Did you threaten him?"

Jacques laughed harshly. He is a brawny man, our carpenter and cabinet maker; and he crossed his corded arms and said only, "I had no need to." Heads nodded all around the spring.

"And what of his wife and children? What provision did he make for them?" This had the air of a rhetorical question, and it was. Amelie had sent Luc to them the previous day with a basket of bread, and I knew she was far from alone.

"None at all, le ver."

M. Thibodeau then turned back to Bertrand, and spoke to him sternly.

"You should have come straight to me, n'est-ce pas? I have known you all of your life, and your father longer than that. We would have taken care of things."

"Oui, monsieur," said Bertrand, nodding his head awkwardly. "I—"

But M. Thibodeau held up his hand and stopped him. "Now, are you ready to take care of your mother and your younger brother and sisters?"

"I am," he said.

M. Thibodeau turned to me. "Then, M. Tuppenny, I say that Bertrand Laveau is a man of Bois-de-bas." I quite understood the subtext: that the Thibodeaus and their other Laveau neighbors would make sure he made a success of it, and that no one truly suspected me of any misbehavior, but that I needed to leave Bertrand be.

I nodded; and Bois-de-Bas's newest citizen was forthwith subjected to a ceremonial dunking which devolved with much yelling and shouting into a water fight the likes of which I have never seen before.

He is young for it, but I think he will do very well.

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Letters from Armorica- Gossip (13 March 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have finally found Bertrand, who I have been looking for these many weeks.

I had been thinking and pondering about his future ever since I called for him to come to me in Mont-Havre last summer. He has been such a help to me, and is such an able young fellow, though unskilled; and I fear that I have made his life very much harder. His father, M. Laveau, is a foolish and angry man; and when the Provençese troops withdrew and we were able to return to town from L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau, Bertrand was so full of M. Tuppenny this and M. Tuppenny that that M. Laveau thought I was trying to transfer his son's affections to myself. I spoke to him at the time, and did the best I could to smooth it over; but it seems that my existence has continued to rankle.

After we returned to Bois-de-Bas from Mont-Havre, Bertrand simply vanished. Even Luc did not seem to know where he had gone. I kept my eyes open for him, but did not approach M. Laveau for fear of throwing fuel on the fire.

And then, two days ago, Luc came to me with a message arrow in his hand—and one not of my making. He seemed distressed.

"You've been busy," I said, taking the arrow and examining it. It was simple, as such arrows are, more the suggestion of an arrow than an arrow one might shoot from a bow. I could tell at once that it had been properly made and formed. "Have you tried it?"

"Oui, maître, I have. It was from Bertrand. He is very ill, and has no one to help."

"So you do know where he is?"

Luc looked down. "Oui, maître. Je suis désolé."

"Poppycock. You're not a bit sorry, Luc. You're worried about Bertrand, and pleased that you gave him some message arrows. You did give him more than one? And a message board?"

"Oui, maître."

"You're too sharp for your own good, Luc, but I supposed I must be pleased at your skill. Now, tell me about Bertrand."

It was a brief tale, quickly told. I had called for Bertrand to come to Mont-Havre; and he had come without his father's leave, without even asking for his father's leave. This was very bad; and when we returned to Bois-de-Bas his father accused him of horrible things, and cast him out.

He was ashamed and humiliated, and afraid to come to me; but he spoke with Luc, and remembering some of the tales we had told during the war he found shelter against the winter in the hunters' caves east of Bois-de-Bas, the place where we had made a decoy against the Provençese, hunting and fishing in the increasing cold.

"But now he is sick, and has no more food."

"You have more arrows? Send him a message telling him that we are coming." And then I went and found Jacques Poquêrie in his workshop and asked him to organize a rescue. We left early yesterday morning in M. Tremblay's sleigh, Jacques and Luc and I, stopping frequently to trim back branches to clear the way, for the snow was still many feet deep—and how I wish I had a sky-wagon in good working order, for we could have been there in a few hours and back in time for dinner!

We found him some distance into the cave, feverish and wrapped in skins and the remains of an old blanket. He had managed to keep a small fire going, and had been melting snow for drinking water, but he was bony and shivering. He lay on his side, clutching Luc's last arrow to his breast, and was hardly able to look up at us.

Luc sat by his side and fed him water and biscuit while I built up the fire. Jacques brought the two horses into the cave and attended to their needs—we were glad for their warmth—and then hung skins against the draft. I made soup, and gave Bertrand willow bark against his fever. I had brought the willow bark from our shop, which doubles as our village pharmacie. I shall have to see about finding a proper doctor for Bois-de-Bas; folk medicine and midwifery are all very well, but it is past time we should have a doctor of our own.

And then we settled in for the night. Bertrand was in no state to tell us his story, and we did not press him. Jacques and I kept the fire going through the dark hours; and after the sun rose we carried the invalid out to the sleigh and returned to Bois-de-Bas.

I would have brought Bertrand to our home and made room for him here, but Jacques said no. "There is gossip that does not reach your ears, Armand. It will be better if he comes and stays with us tonight. And tomorrow I think I will go and pay a call on M. Laveau, n'est-ce pas?"

"Is that wise? Perhaps we should leave it for now, and address it at the hot springs next week."

He laughed harshly. "A man who drives his son away to die in the snow, Armand, what should be done with a man like that? I know what the men will say at the hot springs even if you do not. And as for you, you should take no notice. It is beneath your honor."

"Are you sure, Jacques?"

"Mais oui. Leave it to me."

I do not know what Jacques proposes to do, for he would not tell me. But at least Mme. Poquêrie will take good care of Bertrand.

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Letters from Armorica- Equations (6 February 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

It has been a long and cold and quiet winter in Bois-de-Bois—quiet, that is, except for the noise produced by little Anne-Marie and Margaret. So quiet, in fact, that there has been little to say, as occupied as I have been with Amelie and children, and with settling back into my normal life here in town. The front of my workshop has remained a hotbed of anecdotes and grey hair; Jean-Baptiste has been ably running the shop for Amelie; the hot springs have retained all of their warmth and attraction; and the new Town Hall, completed in my absence, has been receiving regular use, which has done much to reduce the friction between the original settlers and those who have come to Bois-de-Bas in the aftermath of the war. And Patches the Goat has remained every bit as much of an infernal nuisance as ever.

I wonder—it is possible to harden plates, pots, and so on; I wonder if it is possible to soften Armorican goat hair while it is still on the animal. It would have to be repeated periodically, of course, and I am not at all sure that I want to be spend quite that much time with goats on a regular basis. I shall have to think on this.

But quiet is good; and that is not to say that I have been idle, for I have been diligently studying mathematics with Luc. It is difficult, yet intriguing; and I believe that in time I will be able to state my findings with regard to thaumaturgical effort, greed, and generosity with great precision.

In the meantime, working from my trials of this past summer and fall, I believe I have come up with a way to make my warming blocks practical without risking the destruction of other formed elements in the vicinity. They will necessarily be more complex than the simple wooden blocks I started with, and so will be more expensive; but I think they will not be difficult.

The trick is to combine a simple heating block with a thin hardened element that is under tension. The tension is achieved quite simply, by means of four screws that fasten the hardened element to the heating block. The screws are tightened, causing the thin element to bend imperceptibly (I have exaggerated this in my diagram). This produces a source effort generously given up by the hardened element and used greedily by the hardened element. The whole contraption may then be enclosed in a frame leaving the faces of the two primary elements exposed.

I am not yet sure how as to the best size for the hardened element, or the required degree of tension, to make them absolutely safe; but this, after all, is why my design leaves the hardened element exposed: should the greed of the heating block consume the hardened element it will be immediately obvious to the user. And

In the meantime, our beds are toasty warm, which is a joy and a delight in this cold, snowy weather.

In the meantime I am eager for spring. We have received no letters from Mont-Havre, let alone Yorke, in some time, due to the snow; all I can say for certain is that there have been no disasters, or Jack would have spoken with M. Suprenant, who would have sent me an arrow. I must remember to provide him with a new set sometime in the coming months, for it is likely he is running short.

I suppose I am over-eager, for it has been barely enough time to have received word from Yorke concerning Trout's pernicious plans and ultimately fate at the hands of His Majesty's government—always assuming that anyone deigns to pass the details along to me—for the wheels of government grind slowly. But I hope I may soon have word from my mother.

Ah! Amelie is calling.

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Letters from Armorica- Friends and Family (17 October 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Mum,

It has been far too long since I was last able to write you and send you my love; indeed, between the war with Provençe and other goings on I haven't been free to write anyone in Cumbria in almost a year. At first I was trying to avoid attracting attention; and then later there was no way to send a letter; and in recent months I have been out of contact with almost everyone. But things have changed, both here in Armorica and there in Yorke, and I have reason to think that this letter will not be unwelcome.

First, give me joy! And give yourself joy, too, for you are once again a grand-mama! Two days ago, on 15 October, my Amelie gave Anne-Marie a sister, a lovely baby girl. We have decided to name her Margaret Elise after Aunt Maggie and Amelie's good friend Elise Frontenac. I have mentioned Mme. Frontenac to you in the past, though you may not remember; I met her and her husband Marc on the boat here to Amorica—my word, almost three years ago! They have been stalwart friends all of that time, and I owe much of our current health and prosperity to them. But there is a special reason for honoring Mme. Frontenac, and that is that I was obliged to be away in Mont-Havre on business starting in early August until just a week or so ago. Mme. Frontenac has taken good care of my Amelie in that time, and made sure that she wants for nothing.

Oh! There is so much to tell you. I expect you have had some words of me from Aunt Maggie, through Cousin Jack, but I have no idea what you know and what you don't know. Let me tell it all plain.

When the War broke out something over two years ago, I was obliged to leave my position in Mont-Havre. Marc and Elise, bless them! took me into their home here in Bois-de-Bas. I soon met my Amelie, the daughter of the proprietor of the general store here in town, and we married that December.

Truly, I know it seems a bit of a comedown for my father's son to wed a shopkeeper's daughter—but remember that Bois-de-Bois is a small place on the frontier. The general store is the lifeblood of the community, and its owner an exalted personage by local standards! And, well, my Amelie is a dear and a delight, and I know you would love her as I do. I think, given time, she would even manage to charm Father.

After we married I took up forming again in a small way; and on investigating—for Father has always impressed on me the importance of the approval of the Guild—I found to my surprise that I more or less am the Former's Guild in Armorica. Three formers came here from Toulouse in the early days of the colony, but they returned to Provençe after one was killed by a wild beast. They left behind a small but soundly constructed guild-hall. I wrote home seeking to be granted my mastery, as I believe you may know, and under guild law and with the approval and support of Lord Doncaster, His Majesty's governor-general for Armorica I am now the grand-master of the Armorican Former's Guild, La Confrerie des Thaumaturges. You may tell Father that I claimed the grand-mastery and the guild-hall last spring, on my own authority under guild-law and without seeking approval from anyone; that should bring him satisfaction. His Lordship's approval came later, as Father would say it should.

But I am getting ahead of myself, for I have neglected to mention the War! How clumsy of me, for of course it is the War that has prevented me from writing home as I would have liked to do. It was the War that drove me here to Bois-de-Bas, yes and it followed me here, and we had a time of great confusion. I shan't say much about it, as I was rarely in direct danger myself; but I served in my way, and in so doing won the hearts of my neighbors. We do not have much in the way of formal government in Bois-de-Bas, being a small place on the edge of things; but at the time of my coming the mayor of Bois-de-Bois, if so I may call him (for no one here ever did) was Marc Frontenac's uncle, Herbert de Néant. He was a wise and strong man, and my benefactor, but he was tragically killed during the fighting…and to my shock and surprise (and some amount of dismay) my neighbors chose me to replace him. They don't call me "mayor" either.

It is not a time-consuming task, mind you. I preside over the town meetings, when we have them; and I am the one to whom everyone brings their knottiest problems involving their neighbors. I have not yet had to prove my wisdom by dividing a baby down the middle, but it may well come to that. In the meantime, the front half of my former's workshop has become a kind of salon for the old men of the town, especially in cold weather. They play chess and tell each other stories that they all have heard a thousand times, and they are literally my council of elders, giving me the benefit of their wisdom whether I ask for it or not.

Among their number is a fellow named Jacques-le-Souris, whom you may remember my mentioning in my early letters home. He was another boarder at Madame Truc's boarding house, and when Le Maréchal brought war to Mont-Havre and his men confiscated her house to garrison troops in, she and Jacques came to Bois-de-Bas. They are married, now, and live with us, and have been a great help to Amelie.

Indeed, our household has grown alarmingly. In addition to my Amelie and Anne-Marie (and now Margaret Elise as well!), and Jacques and Madam Truc, there is also my apprentice, Luc, a quick and likely lad who will be a great former one day; and also an Armorican goat named Patches of whom I have been inordinately and mysteriously fond—for Armorican goats are distinctly and uniquely unlovable.

And then there is Jean-Baptiste and his wife Brigitte. I first met Jean-Baptiste in Mont-Havre when I worked at Suprenant et Fils. He also came to us because of the war, and being commercially minded has been helping Amelie with the shop while I am away. I expect that in time we may sell it to him, for I am more and more involved with my forming and with the town, and so have little enough time to spare for it, and Amelie's time is increasingly taken up with our children.

Oh, and I have forgotten to mention young Bertrand, a stalwart lad and a great friend of my apprentice, Luc. Bertrand is not my apprentice, having no talent for forming whatsoever that I can see; and yet I think I shall have to find a lasting place for him. He was of great use to me during the war, and also more recently, and his father insists on treating him like a child though he has proven himself to be a young man.

As you can see, Mum, I have built a new life for myself here; and if my actions with regard to the Guild have earned Father's respect and approval, well. That's something I think I never would have done had I remained in Yorke, for we should have always been butting heads. For my part I am surprised at the lessons I learned from him without realizing it, and at the good use I have been able to make of them, and I though I miss you I am quite content to use them out from under his immediate supervision.

Do feel free to share this last paragraph with him. I am quite done trying to please him—and yet I find that I would be glad of his good opinion.

Dearest Mum, I shall try to write more often now that peace has broken out. Please give my best to Aunt Maggie.

Your loving son,

Armand

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photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar Cute baby goat! via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- A Talk among the Tombstones (3 October 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I meant to be back in Bois-de-Bas by now—indeed, Bertrand is already on his way, with Patches the Goat in tow—but Lord Doncaster held me here until today. His Lordship wants to have all of the threads tied up neatly, and I, of course, am one of them.

I met with His Lordship this afternoon, after attending divine services in the cathedral. I am not at all sure that His Lordship was present in mind as well as body, for an air of distraction filled his box. Religion is not an abiding concern among the higher folk in Yorke, so he might have been present to show willing, and to ingratiate himself with his Armorican subjects for whom it is very much an abiding concern.

Or he may have been there simply to meet with me in a plausibly casual manner. What is more natural than for two chance-met expatriates to take a short walk on a fine Autumn day and discuss the Old Country amid the tombstones in the churchyard? For walk we did, and for some twenty minutes or so.

His Lordship questioned me about Trout and all of my experiences with with him and at the Farm, and marveled at the doings of Patches the Goat—without, I may say, desiring to become further acquainted with the beast. He also listened quite seriously to my summary of my trials.

"I do not wish to command you, M. Tuppenny," he said. "Indeed I am not sure whether I can in this. Cumbria is in possession, as it were, but until le Parlement takes further action my legal position is uncertain. But for myself, I would say that you should continue your research by any means possible. Further, it is my opinion—and this is the official opinion of His Majesty's government, of which I am the representative, that you are rightfully and by guild-law the grandmaster of the Former's Guild in Armorica. My word on that.

"Mind you," he said with a smile, "His Majesty's government may change its collective mind after I am gone; but it seems that you have a powerful advocate in Yorke, so I shouldn't worry if I were you."

"My father," I said, ruefully. "I'm on the outs with him, you know. I came here intending to drop out of sight and never deal with him again. He's only pleased because my accomplishments here reflect well on him and extend his reach. Or so he thinks."

His Lordship nodded. "I and my father were the same; I was never happier than when I got my commission and was off to the wars. Nevertheless, do not spurn his good will, for it will serve you well, even, or perhaps especially at a distance. If it were not impertinent, I might add that it is clear that he taught you better than to do so."

"Yes, I suppose he did." I shrugged. "They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but you know, I'm doing my best to roll downslope."

He chuckled. "Indeed; and tomorrow you may roll off to your little town. But mind what I say! So long as you have your head above water I've no wish to interfere with you; but should you find yourself in need, ask for my help through your cousin Jack. The work you are doing is too important to be allowed to languish."

I nodded. "Thank you, your Lordship."

"Just so. Now then, I believe that pulls all of the threads into one tidy knot. All of the purely local threads, at any rate," he said. "We may never hear Trout's full story, not if I know His Majesty's intelligencers. If I learn more, I shall tell you what I can; but at a guess it was a plot aimed at the throne through your father. More than that I cannot say."

We had been pacing slowly, and now reached the center of the graveyard, hard by the tall monument of Jacques Durand, leader of the second wave of colonists. It was a fine obelisk of bronze wood, polished and gleaming. His Lordship turned and regarded me, there in its shadow.

"It takes good men to build a land," he said, gesturing at the monument. "I am glad to have met another." And then, with an airy wave he left me.

I dine tonight with M. Fournier, who has somehow acquired a math text for me; I shall sleep at the guild hall; and first thing in the morning I shall set out for Amelie and home.

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photo credit: SchuminWeb Edge Hill Cemetery via photopin (license)